Arranging the Pieces… Appreciating all of life’s teachers and lessons

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By Tabitha Bozeman

I have been blessed by many inspiring teachers in my life, and as this has been Teacher Appreciation Week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about them. I’ve also been thinking about the wonderful teachers my children have had, and as I often do, hoping that I am hitting the mark in being a good teacher.

One of my first memories of school was in kindergarten when Mrs. Harrington roasted pumpkin seeds for us one fall. Another was in first grade when Mrs. Wadsworth led us in a scavenger hunt for meeting our reading goals and we returned to an ice cream sundae bar in the classroom. Second grade saw me in Mrs. Croley’s class at Walnut Park, and I loved her for letting me read to my heart’s content and creatively completing spelling word reviews. Mrs. Nolan made sure I was prepared with my multiplication tables in third grade.

After a few moves, my mother made sure I was learning at home and reading as much as I wanted — this was my first realization that not all teachers are in classic classrooms. We spent many afternoons perched in our livingroom, listening to Mom read Little Women, Narnia, Anne of Green Gables and more. Those books have been my friends ever since.

Another teacher I had was not in a classroom, but at the library — Paulette McCary taught me how to use a card catalogue, the Dewey decimal system, then eventually the online catalogue on the library computer. She showed me how to find journal articles for research, and how to cite my sources before there were citation generators online. She also let me check out more books than I was supposed to as a 12-year-old, which made her one of my very most favorite people.

Once I began high school, Mrs. Hutchinson taught my dual enrolled psychology class for Westbrook and Gadsden State. She encouraged my curiosity and love of learning, building on the teaching, inspiration and patience other teachers had poured into me — she is also the reason I continued on to college. Mrs. Croyle made me laugh in math class, rather than cry, with her sense of humor. Mrs. Talley was a kind, loving coach and encourager. Mr. Finlayson encouraged my love of literature and writing in English, as did Mrs. Hooker in history. Ms. Donna in our lunchroom snuck me extras if I asked nicely and taught me what the patience of a saint looks like in a high school lunchroom.

In college, the teaching and learning continued, only now the stakes were higher, and I was learning a lot more than curiosity and course material as I received a crash course in learning to juggle “real life” and school, working multiple part time jobs and attending classes full time. Mr. Eugene Williams taught me to push myself intellectually, and that kindness can come from the most surprising places. Dr. Hug taught me that it was ok to ask questions I couldn’t yet answer, and to keep reading until I could. Dr. Reed taught me that there are more layers to language than I’d ever dreamt possible, and that thoughtfully considering my words is an important skill. Dr. DiBiase taught me that it was ok to be enthusiastic in the classroom, and that unabashedly loving what you do makes an immeasurable difference in your life satisfaction.

I have had more teachers than I can name in this brief space who have made an impression on my life in one way or another, and not an academic semester goes by without remembering them. My own children have had many teachers who have not only touched their lives in the classroom, but mine as a parent, and for these special souls, I am forever grateful.

We are nearly through this school year, and the summer offers time to reflect, recharge, reorganize and prepare for the next year. It is a time when I try out new ideas in my summer classes, review what worked and what did not the year before and make plans for fall — in other words, I keep learning.

As B.B. King said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.”

Semester after semester, class after class, student after student, I keep learning, asking questions, adjusting and being curious. I know I have many, many teachers to thank for that.

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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